The subtitle for Hisham Matar’s The Return — Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between — hints at its breadth. Turns out the “land in between” — intellectually, emotionally, and morally — is vast. A memoir, a work of investigative journalism, a political and cultural history, a meditation on family, art, freedom, loss, and home — Matar’s story is almost mystically vaster than the 240 pages between its covers. More suspenseful than any novel I read this year, more haunting than any poetry I read this year, more illuminating than any academic take on the political landscape in Libya or anyplace else, The Return is a treasure. In the end, there is no end. Matar’s search for his politically imprisoned father — and the Libyan people’s search for new life after the trauma of Muammar al-Qaddafi — continues hazardously on. I heard once that the reason a song gets stuck in your head is because you didn’t finish listening to it, that the only way to exorcise the song is to hear it out until the end. The Return is a book about unendingness, and for that reason and uncountable others, it’ll remain singing in my head and my heart for a very long time.
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